With these words in his speech in Ohio on Monday, President Trump equated dissent with treason by saying that politicians who didn’t applaud him during his State of the Union Address were un-American and treasonous:
“You’re up there. You got half the room going totally crazy, wild, loved everything. They want to do something great for our country, and you have the other side, even on positive news — really positive news — like that, they were like death, un-American. Somebody said treasonous. Yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
President Trump’s statement couldn’t be farther from true. You might be able to argue that the Democrats were impolite and you may disagree with their position, but their actions are not un-American and they are not treasonous. In fact, their actions are protected by the Constitution – they have freedom of expression. Trump’s words are not the words of a President of the United States, they are the words of a despot or a tyrant. Press Secretary Sanders said that his words were said in jest. You don’t joke by calling someone un-American and accusing them of treason. No, those words were designed to inflame, to damage the Democrats. I never dreamed that I would hear a President of the United States say something like that.
I felt moved to write to my Representative, Buddy Carter and my Senators Johnny Isaakson and David Perdue. I disagree with all three on many issues, but it would never occur to me call them un-American and treasonous. I’ve never heard a report of any of them calling those they disagree with the same. Here is what I wrote to them:
In his speech in Ohio yesterday, President Trump suggested – all but said – that members of Congress who disagreed with him and didn’t applaud him during his State of the Union Address were un-American and treasonous. I never dreamed that I would hear a President of the United States call dissenting politicians treasonous. You and I disagree on many things, but it has never crossed my mind to call you un-American or treasonous because of those differences. To do so would be contrary to our bedrock freedoms. I urge you, a Trump supporter, to impress upon President Trump how very wrong his statement was and how contrary to our core freedoms it was to call dissent and freedom of expression treason. In closing, I’ll leave you with these words from Edward R. Murrow:
“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.” – 9 March 1954, See it Now
After I emailed that note that closed with Murrow’s quotation, I felt the need to rewatch “Good Night and Good Luck,” the movie about Murrow taking on Joseph McCarthy. The closing of the See It Now episode which that quotation comes from never fails to cause a tear to come to my eye and even though we may not be facing McCarthyism today, we do face a toxic environment in which a President confuses dissent with disloyalty. I think that Murrow’s words of March 1954 mean just as much today as they did then:
No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”